Go French Yourself’s Guide To Memphis// Where The Beat Goes On
This post was made in collaboration with Memphis Travel however as always, all words are my own. Thank you to Memphis Travel and everyone involved for a really wonderful trip.
Memphis, Tennessee- The Home of
the Blues, Soul & Rock 'n' RolL
Memphis is somewhere that I really wanted to spend some time exploring. I had been there once before when I was 17 but that doesn’t even count. And Lin had never been before and I had a feeling he would really enjoy the rich history. I also really wanted to see one of my favorite Frenchie bands Phoenix play as they booked a stop in Memphis for Mempho Fest, a two day music festival. Being such a music lover since as long as I can remember, I just had to experience one of the most musically charged cities in the country. Being a foodie too I also needed to get my hands on some of this Memphis style BBQ! So when I reached out to the lovely Memphis Travel team to experience all that Memphis has to offer-well we made it happen! This post was in collaboration with them and I hope that it will make you consider exploring more of our beautiful world here in The U.S.! I took about 360 photos and kept 70 so this post is very photo heavy but we were able to cover so much ground for you giving you a little bit of everything that we really enjoyed! Memphis Travel is amazing to work with and really put some great places on our itinerary! A few others were suggestions from friends too! Anyhow prepare to become an Elvis fan when you come to Memphis. Elvis 🕺once said “Truth is like the sun. You can shut it out for a time, but it ain’t goin’ away” —He also said “Do something worth remembering “ and “When things go wrong , don’t go with them “ 🙌🏽 Before Memphis I always thought I was more of a Johnny Cash girl but after learning so much in this rock n roll town I think “The King” and I would have been really great friends .
G E T T I N G T H E R E
We adore a good road trip so we hit the road on a Thursday morning. Admittedly, it takes a long time from Tulsa (approximately 7 hours or so) but in the grand scheme of things, that’s really not too terrible! I think to sit in one place for longer than a couple of hours is actually so rare to me so I really relished the opportunity to effectively spend a working day in the car. Love that we upgraded our data plan so now I can connect to my very own personal hot spot as long as we have wifi. We stopped in Van Buren for lunch which has some amazing old buildings downtown so if you like to have a slice of scenery with your travel, Van Buren is a great option and it’s an almost perfect halfway mark!
MEMPHIS TRAVEL ITINERARY
S T A Y:
Peabody Memphis: The Peabody Memphis offers a magnificent bridge between “Blues City's” celebrated past and cosmopolitan present! Peabody history dates back to 1869 and when the original Peabody Hotel opened on the corner of Main & Monroe and immediately became the social and business hub of Memphis. In 1925 a newer, grander Peabody was built at its present location at Union and 2nd Street continuing the legacy of the "South's Grand Hotel." It was 1933 when ducks were originally placed in the hotel's lobby fountain, setting in motion an 80-year tradition that continues today with the March of the Peabody Ducks. The Peabody name has become synonymous with the 5 North American mallard ducks that are now the living symbol of the Peabody brand. It’s just so beautiful here! I feel as though time has stopped and I love that! Highly suggest PEABODY AFTERNOON TEA! Served in Chez Philippe, this is the only place in Memphis that offers a traditional English afternoon tea. Enjoy a three-course menu of savory tea sandwiches, assorted sweets and warm scones from the Peabody Pastry Shop in addition to a selection of teas and caffeine-free children's teas. And make sure to see the Inaugural Duck March! Ducks still visit the lobby fountain at 11 a.m. and 5 p.m. each day! It’s truly so special! I mean ducks strutting on a red carpet..you just have to see it with your own eyes!
E A T A N D D R I N K :
Catherine & Mary’s: Truly a gem of a restaurant in downtown Memphis, I can't recommend a visit to Catherine & Mary’s enough. Located in the first floor of the historic Hotel Chisca this was genuinely one of the most delicious meals I'd had this year so far. The menu features the cuisine of Tuscany and Sicily! And I loved the multi-course experience, beginning with a snack, moving to small plates, pastas and entrees. The portions are nice and small so you can really get a variety of options to taste and share. The cocktail list is divine too! We arrived early right when we drove into town after being quite ravenous from a long day of traveling and left a packed out restaurant, feeling full to the brim and completely happy! It’s also oh so easy on the eyes—definitely a gorgeous place to get that Insta photo!
Crosstown Concourse: Crosstown Concourse is the product of nearly five generations of innovators, dreamers, and builders. It's the product of those who, in 1927, saw the unorthodox potential in a 12-acre parcel of land on the outskirts of Memphis, off a narrow road called Cleveland. It's the product of the generations who built its walls, populated its halls, and created communities – inside and out – with their labor and an unspoken creed: "Together, we are better." Today, it stands as a product of this generation's passion and determination to do the impossible, with the same guiding belief that we truly are better together. If you love architecture, and we do, you are totally going to fall in love with this space. Also great if you are traveling with a group because there are various restaurants to chose from and everything is fresh, handcrafted, and locally sourced! We had lunch with Caroline from Memphis Travel here and tried Saucy Chicken! With antibiotic-free chicken and dishes made with locally sourced ingredients, Saucy Chicken focuses on creating affordable, quality food that caters to the palates of Mid-Southerners. Still dreaming of those onion rings too! Lin had to try the ice cream (big surprise) from Area 51! They scoop out small batch, hand made ice creams and sorbets.
Jerry’s Snow Cones: This little gem is tucked away in a neighborhood and worth the drive for those shaved iced treats! Order it ‘supreme, because it comes with soft serve in the bottom, middle AND top, and wedding cake is their signature flavor. So so delish! It was also a crazy 95 degrees when we were there so yes to all the snow cones!
Mollie Fontaine Lounge: This proper lounge, set off the beaten path in an historic Victorian painted lady just east of Downtown, is furnished with jewel-toned divans, provocative art, leather armchairs, and iconic flame-hued paper lanterns. Try the Frenchie is my Boyfriend cocktail and mingle with the most fashionable Memphians to the tune of piano lounge singing, house DJs, or the serenades of the ghosts that supposedly populate the stairs and hallways. Loved this quirky place so much ! Adore the brocade-covered walls—all lined with portraits of Memphis greats. And the tapas are incredible! We had planned on just having a drink or two and ended up just having dinner there too! Get the ricotta honey plate and the daily spring rolls!! This was a fave of the whole trip!
Loflin Yard: Brunch is a good option here and if you love College Football, this is the place to watch! Order the Shrimp and Grits
Stone-ground grits with smoked gouda, tasso ham, shiitake mushroom and pimentos …and the Loflin's Hot Chicken! The grapefruit and pineapple mimosas are a nice choice too. They are not really a service oriented restaurant though..you order your food at a window and need to ask for water and refills and anything else you might need so don’t have a high expectation if you go! Food A plus. Sports Viewing A plus. Service ..ugh..no further comment!
Central BBQ- Go where the locals go. Memphians know great BBQ. And since it opened in 2002, Central BBQ has been ranked as the number one spot for BBQ in Memphis. The secrets to Central’s success? Fall-off-the-Bone Meat! You might have heard them say, “Smoke is Our Sauce.” That’s because they live in the hardwood capital of the world and use hickory and pecan woods, along with an intricate dry rub and a whole lot of patience, to craft the most tender, delicious piece of meat you’ve ever eaten— with or without the sauce. Do save room for homemade banana pudding too! Memphis Travel had also suggested The Bar-B-Que shop but they are closed on Sundays.
Peabody Deli & Deserts: Stop by for morning coffee, continental breakfast, a quick sandwich, homemade ice cream, or a wide array of delicious desserts from The Peabody Pastry Shop. These pastries are some of the best in the world. They Peabody left me a white chocolate duck in my room one evening with a bottle of wine and it made my whole trip!
The Arcade Restaurant: The Arcade has the honor of being Memphis' oldest restaurant! As you look around this old re-discovered part of Memphis, it still has the same look and feel that it did many years ago. The buildings have been refurbished, yet the old-time charm still exists. It's like a trip back in time! It is this nostalgic feeling that has attracted photographers, artists, writers, and movie makers from around the world. Scenes from Mystery Train, Great Balls of Fire, The Client, The Firm, 21 Grams, Elizabethtown, Walk the Line, and My Blueberry Nights, just to name a few, have all been filmed in the restaurant. A second historical marker was erected by the Memphis Film Commission titled "Modern Movie Making in Memphis." It is located on the sidewalk outside. National magazines such as Southern Living, Esquire, Travel, and Sports Illustrated have featured the Arcade in their publications. The Food Network and The Travel Channel have even done specials on southern breakfast at the Arcade Restaurant. Many of the celebrities from these movies have eaten the same foods you will eat today. At one time, even Elvis was a regular. ( they even have a fried banana and peanut butter sandwich called The Elvis)
Wiseacre Brewery: WISEACRE is a brewery committed to top quality, uniquely flavorful beer that appeals to passionate & progressive people through education & good times. Brothers Davin & Kellan Bartosch dreamed up WISEACRE many moons ago & have been on an extensive quest procuring top-notch experience from around the globe to deliver the crunkest brewery possible in their groovy hometown of Memphis, TN. Such a fun place to hang outside on a nice day!
Low Fi Coffee: The only coffee I liked in Memphis ! (I am the hugest coffee snob and am not even going to mention the others) Get the oatmeal milk latte!
DO: E X P L O R I N G M E M P H I S
Graceland: It goes without saying that Graceland should be one of your main stops, even if you are not and Elvis fan! The Graceland Estate is roughly 9 miles outside of downtown Memphis and sits on 13.8 acres of land. The tour begins with a film showing a brief history of Elvis Presley. The tour allows you to fully immerse yourself into all things, Elvis. Visitors are able to walk room to room through Elvis’s Graceland estate learning intimate details and history of each functioning room on the property. As you exit the Graceland Estate, you make your way to the next portion of the tour which includes the Auto Museum, Entertainer Career Center and the Elvis Discovery exhibits. Throughout these rooms, you will spend endless time learning about his roots, influences and more details as to the what shaped the man known as “The King”. You’ll want to allow 1-1.5 hours to see the house properly (and get some exterior shots) plus the rest of the exhibits could easily make your visit more of a day trip. We wished we had planned a bit more time here!
Sun Studios: Sun Studios has widely considered “The Birthplace of Rock & Roll” and is a MUST visit while planning your weekend getaway in Memphis. This was actually my favorite thing that we experienced!!!! The tour was incredible! Don’t worry if you are a little early. Sun Studios has a gift shop to browse old cuts of records and apparel while you wait for the tour to begin. Sun Studios also has a 50’s style diner fully flowing with coffee and milkshakes while you wait for the tour to begin. The tour begins by walking upstairs to a “showroom” of sorts where the guide will tell you history, background and humble beginnings of Sun Studios in the 50’s as you look through the glass walls at the historic relics of Sun Studios past. You will learn the history and struggle of Sam Phillips to bring the sounds of Memphis to the radio. After 20 minutes or so, the group will head back downstairs to the front office and recordings studio. This is where the magic happened to create hit records from B.B. King, Howling’ Wolf, Johnny Cash and an unknown guy named Elvis Presley. Your guide will play songs and tell you the history about them being created in that very studio. I literally was in awe and learned so much! I could go on and on for hours but I want you to go to Memphis and take this tour yourself. But dang….I will never forget this place and to have experienced it just warms my heart! I think I had a spiritual experience here!
Stax Records: Stax Records is known for bringing Southern soul or “Memphis Soul” to the mainstream. This was Lin’s most favorite part of the trip! Tours are self-guided and begin with a short 20-minute video to provide visitors with an overview of what they will be seeing throughout the Stax Museum. After the video, visitors are able to walk through the enormous 17,000 sq ft museum of countless hallways, interactive exhibits, videos, music, and rooms filled with the rich history of Stax Records. Soak in all of the historic music, outfits, and history Stax Records brought to the masses. Learn all about the artists such as Booker T. & the M.G’s, Isacc Hayes and Otis Redding. The recommended time from the employees at Stax is 2 hours for your planned visit, but you can easily visit in one hour and really learn a lot during your self-guided tour.
National Civil Rights Museum: The Lorraine Motel was the site historically known for the April 4, 1968 assassination of civil rights activist Martin Luther King Jr. The tour is built around the Lorraine Motel and consists of historic buildings and museums that help visitors understand the historical journey of the Civil Rights movement in the United States. We easily spent 3 hours here because there is so much history! So plan accordingly and wear comfy shoes. It is so incredibly informative and really gets you thinking.
Beale Street: Beale Street is historically known for music. Kitchy souvenir stores have taken over a few of the building’s storefronts, but there are many bars and live music venues to choose from as you walk down Beale Street. Each bar/restaurant is different and has many different musical acts. Be sure to take a listen from the street outside of the venue to preview the rhythm and blues or Rock & Roll band performing on stage. I love BB King’s, which is full of out-of-towners but hosts great live blues music—the speakeasy-style restaurant upstairs (named Itta Bena, for King’s Mississippi hometown) is a great bet, too! Locals will insist on a visit to Silky O’Sullivan’s down the street! You just gotta do it!
Mallory Neely House Tour: Listed on the National Register of Historic Places and located at 652 Adams Avenue in the Victorian Village Historic District, the Mallory-Neely House is one of the City’s treasured historic sites. It is all the more special in that it retains all of the original historic interiors, furniture, and artifacts almost exclusively. It offers a visceral experience walking through the home and lives of a family from over one hundred years ago. Isaac and Lucy Kirtland bought the property in 1852 and built the two-story home for their family. In 1883 Columbus and Frances Neely bought the house and moved in with their five children. The Neely’s made significant changes, adding a third floor with an additional level for the tower and were responsible for the magnificent period interiors we still see today. The décor and furnishings date to circa 1890 and include pieces the family bought at the World’s Columbian Exposition in Chicago in 1893 and later from the St. Louis World’s Fair in 1904. It was preserved in this pristine manner by Mrs. Frances Neely Mallory, also known affectionately throughout her life as Miss Daisy, who moved into the house with her parents as a child and was the last family member to reside there until her death in 1969. In the 1970s the Mallory Family gave the house and contents to the DAR/SAR/CAR who opened it as a house museum. They gifted it to the City in 1985 and it has been a facet of the Pink Palace Family of Museums and operated as a historic house museum since 1987. The Mallory-Neely House is now open to the public once again. Admission is free to Pink Palace Family of Museum Members. Hours are Fridays and Saturdays from 10:00am to 4:00pm with tours on the hour and half hour with the last tour at 3:00pm.
Al Green’s Full Gospel Tabernacle Church: The R&B singer's modest church guarantees a religious experience, regardless of your beliefs. The building is a modest structure that sports stained glass windows and a 12-foot mural of the rapture. Green is a booming presence when he’s there! Don’t bother calling to see if he’s going to be present for any particular service—they won’t tell you, often because they’re not sure themselves. And besides, most visitors consider their experience, with or without Green in the pulpit, a noteworthy one. Sunday morning services start late, at 11:30 a.m!
Do take one of the vintage trolleys too! And experience the “Bird” scooters around town!! They are everywhere and I am so excited they are coming to Tulsa!
S H O P: E X P L O R I N G M E M P H I S
Fox+Cat Vintage: This all-inclusive vintage fashion boutique located in the cooper young district of Memphis is stellar!!! Each shop piece is hand-selected, researched, and restored as a living piece of history. FOX+CAT items can date anywhere from the late 1800s to the mid 1990s, however they pride themselves in their selection of very wearable, modern silhouettes and styles that assimilate well into a contemporary wardrobe. Prices vary due to fabric, quality of construction, condition, rarity of style and/or designer, and age, therefore you can always find a freshly updated $20 rack with fantastic finds appealing to any budget.I scored the most gorgeous plaid cape and a cameo ring!! They ship too so I will definitely be following them!
Stock & Belle: Such a beautiful store concept by CrazyBeautiful owner Eryka Smith and Chad West reflective of their partnership and love for style beyond clothing. “His. Hers. Home. Hair.” – Chad’s latest idea for the Stock & Belle tagline. The two-story building at 387 South Main houses men’s and women’s clothing, shoes, and accessories; furniture, lighting, and home goods; and a salon and barber. And I want to move in!!!
F E S T: E X P L O R I N G M E M P H I S
Be sure to check out next year’s lineup for Mempho Fest too! Mempho Music Festival is the latest chapter in the rich musical history of Memphis, Tennessee. Paying homage to the Memphis community’s unique role in shaping and influencing global music culture, Mempho Music Festival was created to blend today’s best contemporary sounds with Memphis’ storied musical heritage. The festival experience ties these roots together with music, food, and nature, and we’re committed to making it an integral part of the Memphis cultural scene for years to come. Building off Mempho’s inaugural year, in 2018, the festival will offer multiple live music stages, art installations, a unique food experience, and an interactive dome that melds together the worlds of music, art, science, and design. We partied under the stars in The beautiful Shelby Farms Park with Janelle Monae, Phoenix, and Beck!!! Nothing beats a good fest with dusty boots with the sun beaming down and the sweet sounds of music weaving through the air and all the good vibes ... !
This 4 day trip to Memphis was so meaningful to me!! I cannot wait to go back and explore some more of this amazing city because I feel like we barely scratched the service!!!!!!
Where are your favorite places in this rich city?!!
Tell me in the comments! I always love hearing from you!